- Adrian Aardvark, Holy Abandonment
About halfway through "Religious Upbringing," the opening track on Adrian Aardvark's Holy Abandonment, singer-songwriter Christopher Stott-Rigsbee offers a curious confession: "In the eyes of the Father, Lord I am a sinner / Gonna sin so much, be the sin winner." The front person doesn't sing those words in any sort of triumphant fashion, but rather with dazed determination, as if he might not be sure his actions are the wisest choice.
The Plattsburgh, N.Y.-based freak-folk act's seventh album sits somewhere between a long, dark night of the soul and a really hairy trip. Faith has been lost, traumas are revisited, drugs are filling holes, and a veritable shit-ton of catharsis is taking place. Honestly, what could be more American in 2019?
A lingering sort of dark reflection looms over Adrian Aardvark's music. The songs are structured essentially like pop, but that framework serves only as a backdrop for Stott-Rigsbee's manic, sprawling, lyrical epics. He holds up an assortment of woes on "Summer Anxiety," a song that details methods for fighting off depression and complacency. "Give me five hours of pornography, please," he sings. "Give me three bacon-cheese / Pills would go good with these." The one-two punch of nihilism and spiritual longing makes for an effective hook.
While Adrian Aardvark have never steered clear of heavy themes — particularly on 2012's not-so-easy-listening Hidden Magic Revival — Stott-Rigsbee reaches for a deeper level of authenticity with his songwriting on Holy Abandonment. For all the religious iconography dotting his sonic landscapes, and for all the drugged-out, quasi-coherent bits, there are moments of startling nakedness.
On the title track, the singer tells a story of holding a 9mm pistol in a porta-john. "Fuzzy Insomnia" and "Love" both touch on the unique stress that financial insecurity can bring. And on "Live," we find the writer reliving past traumas as a way to embolden himself against the future. This is hardly light fodder.
Many listeners may find the record — and Adrian Aardvark in general — too sonically abrasive. Certainly, the shambolic nature of the songs paired with Stott-Rigsbee's often-caterwauling voice can push some tracks toward the red. However, those attuned to the late Daniel Johnston's end of the musical spectrum will discover a unique, truly bizarre and emotionally frank songwriter.
In the end, Stott-Rigsbee isn't sure whether God abandoned the world or the world abandoned God. Still, he's never short on ideas for how to fill the hole where spiritual devotion once dwelled. Beyond the drugs and long nights, he sees self-love as the guiding light out of the darkness. Witness the final lyrics on Holy Abandonment, which offer a perfect sense of thematic closure: "I love you, Chris / I love you, baby boy / I love you."
Holy Abandonment is available at adrianaardvark.bandcamp.com.